BOSTON — The wife of Massachusetts Rep. John Tierney pleaded guilty Wednesday to four counts of aiding and abetting the filing of false tax returns for her brother, a federal fugitive.
Patrice Tierney looked tired and nervous as she sat before Judge William Young in federal court. When Judge Young asked her why she was pleading guilty, she said quietly, “because I take full responsibility for what my part in this was.”
Tierney pleaded guilty to willful blindness in helping her fugitive brother, Robert Eremian, file false income tax returns. Eremian is wanted for racketeering, illegal gambling and money laundering.
For the past several years he has been living in Antigua, from where he’s been running an illegal Internet gambling operation here in the U.S. His sister, Patrice Tierney, ran his affairs back home. She kept his books, paid his bills and, according to the government, helped launder about $7 million in illegal profits, which were listed as “commissions” on the tax returns she helped prepare. After the hearing, Rep. Tierney made a brief statement, but took no questions.
“Today’s not about me. I’m here in support of Patrice, my wife,” Tierney said. ”It’s a difficult day for her, as I’m sure you can understand.”
Tierney referred reporters to a written statement released earlier, in which he says his wife was “deceived” by her brother. He also acknowledges that she should have done more to learn the “true nature” of his business activities.
Patrice Tierney will be sentenced in January. In the plea agreement, the government has recommended she get three months of home detention and two years probation.
Tierney’s Political Future
In the meantime, the political fallout on her husband is less clear. What is clear is that this is providing an opportunity for his political opponent, Republican Bill Hudak.
“Well, I’m certainly disappointed by allegations of the magnitude and nature that are alleged,” Hudak said.
Not long ago, many dismissed Hudak as a long-shot to win a district that Tierney has carried by comfortable margins since 1996. Whether or not this will help Hudak’s chances, he’s using it to ask some tough questions.
“What I’m basically doing is asking Congressman Tierney to be completely forthright, and to disclose what he knew and when he knew it, as well as, his involvement, if any,” Hudak said.
In downtown Lynn Wednesday, which is part of Tierney’s district, news of his wife’s guilty plea was on the front page of the local newspaper. But Chris Burke, a Democrat from Salem, said he continues to support Tierney.
“I haven’t heard anything that he was involved in any way, and I appreciate some of the stands he’s taken in the past,” Burke said. “I thought he was pretty brave back when it was popular to invade Iraq, and he voted against that. I thought he’s had some pretty courageous stands, so I respect him and like him.”
But Mike, a machinist from Lynn, who would only give his first name, said the news has only hardened his decision to vote against Tierney.
“I’m pretty much fed up with what’s going on with the long-term politicians that are out there right now, anyway,” Mike said. Mike said he has traditionally supported Democrats, but now says he will support Republicans. And he says news of Patrice Tierney’s guilty plea has only hardened his resolve.
“They all seem to think they’re above the law,” he said. “The longer they’re in there the more corrupt they get. They think they’re entitled to everything.”
Patrice Tierney’s guilty plea — and the tough question for Rep. Tierney — are sure to come up Thursday night in a televised debate between Tierney and his Republican challenger, Hudak.